#0058: Out Of The Darkness
It’s been a long, hard journey through winter but slowly, quietly, gently, the darkness is fading.
Spring is re-emerging from the shadows, and we have a lot to be grateful for.
Birdsong floats in through the window on a gentle breath of air which has lost its icy edge.
Crocuses dressed in their gold and purple finery pop brightly against drifts of snowdrops, melting back to green as the last scraps of winter fade away.
The first of the daffodils doff their paper crowns to mark the return of the gentle sun as it creeps ever higher in the pale, cerulean sky.
Beneath it, the spring light casts a silver lining on the pure, white fleece of a lamb, as doting eyes watch its first, shaky steps into a bright, new world.
Springtime has always been about new beginnings, but this year, as we turn our backs on the bleakest of winters, that sentiment has taken on a whole new significance.
In normal times, we could compensate for the harshness of the coldest months through the company of others, cosied up by the fire, in the comfort of our homes. This year, we were deprived even of that. In the absence of friends and family, we were cast out on turbulent waters to navigate the storm alone.
But, slowly, the tide is turning, bringing us together once more.
We're not entirely free of the darkness yet but, as the daylight hours start to outnumber the night, and restrictions begin tentatively to lift, there's more than a glimmer of hope.
Good friendships are never extinguished, even in times like these. They burn slowly, as embers, just waiting to be rekindled.
Since the dawn of humanity, fire has brought people together.
To keep warm.
To chase away the darkness.
But it’s more than that. There’s something deeply emotive about the shared experience of gathering around a campfire to share stories and break bread with old friends. Being bound together in a tangle of woodsmoke, as logs crackle and pop, throwing orange sparks into the darkening sky.
So, whilst Government guidance must still be followed, this feels like the perfect opportunity to embrace being outdoors, and shine new light on ancient traditions, by baking simple campfire bread together, as we catch up after a long winter.
The recipe is really straightforward, but immensely satisfying, and is great to do with children, provided little hands are kept a safe distance from hot flames.
Start by combining 250g of strong white bread flour, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of caster sugar, 7g of dried yeast, a tablespoon of olive oil, and 160g of warm water in a large mixing bowl. Once you have a firm dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough springs back when prodded.
When you're happy with your dough, put it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave it in a warm place to prove for about half an hour, then dust it lightly with flour, wrap it with waxed cloth or cling film, pack it in your rucksack, pull on your boots, and head out for an adventure.
Campfires are great fun, but should be built and used responsibly, leaving no trace once you’re gone, and seeking permission from the landowner, where appropriate. For minimum impact, build your fire inside a ring of stones on the beach, to avoid accidentally scorching any plant life.
Once you’ve found your perfect spot, and your campfire is roaring, gather some sticks long enough to hold over the fire, or use bamboo skewers if you prefer, divide the dough into eight equal pieces and roll them between your hands to make sausage shapes. Coil a piece of dough around each stick, and pinch the ends, so they hold on tight.
Bake the bread over the fire for about ten minutes, turning often, until it has risen and turned golden brown.
Then serve immediately with a freshly cooked sausage, a little smoked salt, and good company. And when you’re done, come and sit with me by the fire and, with our backs to the darkness, together we’ll look to the light.